Once I exhausted my online options, it was time to start “dialing for dollars”. NOTE: You will need to have all the information regarding your driver license and vehicle registration close at hand. For a more accurate quote, you will be asked about any accidents or violations within the last 5 years. When you get a quote, be sure to confirm the quote – I actually requested the sales representative to email me the quote as a record and for reference
While talking to the insurance companies’ sales representative, I made sure to explore all options relating to discounts. Insurance companies give discounts for a good driving record, favorable credit score, safety equipment (for example, antilock brakes, anti-theft systems, etc.), certain occupations or professional affiliations, multiple policies, and etc.
Criteria to Make an Informed Decision
Your final selection should depend on two things:
- The reliability of the insurance company based on the criteria above
- The price of the quote
While it can be very hard for a layman to compare insurance policies and most companies will be within 15-20% of each other in price, I’ve learned of a few ways of seeking out the most reliable insurance companies. Oh yeah, did I mention there are 1,200 property-casualty companies in the U.S…
- Department of Insurance Websites – Review consumer complaint ratios for all the insurance companies that sell policies in your state. The ratio tells you how many complaints an insurance company received per 1,000 claims. Similarly, be sure to make note of those insurance companies with favorable ratios. Site for KY: http://insurance.ky.gov/
- Body Shop Recommendations – Find out which companies body shops would recommend. Clearly, this kind of research is more time-consuming than simply finding the lowest premium rate, but if you have a claim, you want to make sure your vehicle is repaired correctly and completely with minimal hassle and the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts are used. I called and solicited feedback from a local body shop owner and Honda dealership as we’d purchased a new Honda Odyssey in 2009.
- Use an Agent – Consider working with an insurance agent – captive agent or independent agent
- Financial Strength – Check out the financial strength ratings for the companies that interest you. I leveraged two prominent companies, A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s, who publish financial strength rating for all insurance companies – these “measure” an insurance company’s ability to pay out a claim.
- Group Discount ≠ Customer Service – Just because your employer has teamed up with insurance companies to offer group rate discounts, don’t assume that such an insurance company will provide superior customer service.
Now that you have your quotes, it’s now time to compare them to your existing auto and homeowners insurance policies. Again it’s my suggestion to look at more that just the price of the quote; but also look at the reliability of the insurance company (price may not be king).
Thanks to Melissa’s hubby for writing this article.